19 April 2010
Black & White Magic
It has been more than four years since I've taught double knitting. That's a real shame, because it is so much fun to do and so much fun to teach. This is one of those techniques that is a real delight because people think it is so much harder than it is. Students come into the class nervous or unsure, and leave feeling like they can work magic. It is wonderful.
For my class in May, I've chosen to make a less-intimidating sample by working the chart for the "Ukrainian Tiles" afghan. The book is Comfort Knitting & Crochet Afghans by Norah Gaughan, Margery Winter, and the Berroco Design Team (New York, NY: Stewart, Tabori & Chang 2010). I don't really need an afghan book, but this one has some delightful and interesting patterns. Because afghans are large empty canvases tossed around the house, there is a lot of opportunity for playfulness in stitch pattern and color. After all, an afghan doesn't need to pass the same fashion wear-ability tests as a sweater. For my sample, I used some leftover Cascade 220 rather than the Berroco Comfort called for in the pattern. Blasphemy, I know! Also be aware that the pattern in the book is written for stranded knitting not double knitting. I've worked the chart twice in order to get something close to a square.
There aren't a lot of books out on this technique, either. One of the few is Double Knitting: Reversible Two-Color Designs by M'Lou Baber (Pittsville WI: Schoolhouse Press, 2008). Blessings on Meg Swansen and the rest of the folks at Schoolhouse Press for their willingness to distribute and publish knitting books on some of the less popular techniques. True to the title, this book will give you the basic run-down on how to do double-faced reversible stockinette. Most of the projects are fabulous coats. Those would require a considerable investment in materials and time, but would be showpieces for years to come. You would be hoping for long cool spells and non-existent summers just to flaunt your finished project. If you want a smaller helping of the technique, the adorable and traditional child's bonnet would be perfect for a special child in your family. Or if you prefer less shaping and knitting for yourself, the cat shoulder bag would be a useful accessory year 'round.
Ms. Baber gives a nice technique for keeping the edges closed but tidy, and also has directions for 1x1 reversible ribbing. There are other more complicated techniques that she does not include. For example, she doesn't get into how to knit lettering, which involves knitting two sides that are not perfect mirror images of each other. And she doesn't discuss more elaborate knit and purl reversible patterns. Nor does she cover buttonholes in double knitting. But the directions for the techniques she does cover are clear and nicely photographed. Most of her designs draw from the traditions of European knitting so that the finished projects would always be classics. She also includes a few more modern designs for those who would like to push the edge of fashion. The decision to add this book to my library was a no-brainer.